a community engagement initiative of Momence CUSD #1
For a school to function properly, many things need to be happening simultaneously. Teachers, administrators, and other staff all have to be working together to achieve the end goal of educating the youth of the community. But one thing that we might take for granted is getting the kids to the school to begin with, because, without the kids, nobody else would be able to do their jobs. For this crucial role, Momence Community Unit School District hired Illinois Central School Bus Transportation, and that’s where Angie Sain and her crew of 17 bus drivers come in.
By Erica Loos
Angie lived in Kankakee until she was in third grade, when she moved to Momence, and ultimately graduated from Momence High School. This is also where Angie chose to get married and raise three children and, until recently when her son moved to Texas to pursue a job opportunity, all of her five grandchildren had been raised here as well. Angie said what she feels is really special about her community are the people who live there. “The community comes together to help everybody. I really see that. We look out for each other for the most part,” she said.
For nearly 30 years Angie has worked at Illinois Central School Bus Transportation, first as a driver, and has spent the last 10 years as the contract manager. She manages a crew of 17 drivers who run 13 routes, all for Momence schools. One of the biggest challenges she has faced lately is being short-staffed, which results in some adjustments. “Doubling routes, canceling routes … We actually have 12 regular routes … I just added one back, to where we’re up to 11. I was down to 10 routes at the beginning of the year because I couldn’t do 12,” Angie said.
She provided some additional details and explained how these adjustments have a major impact on the route scheduling. “Taking one bus away affected three routes, because I had to take that whole bus and divide it into two buses … And even doing that, I’d have to double another bus and combine the two buses onto one and that’s tight. Because you can’t go over the numbers [of students allowed per bus],” she said.
School bus drivers are an important part of a child’s school day. They are the first face a child sees before arriving at school and last face the kids see before they get home. This is something Angie is keenly aware of, and says she speaks to her drivers about this “on a daily basis.” Some kids are more outgoing than others and feel more comfortable speaking to people they don’t know very well, and Angie says that’s okay. “No matter if they speak back or not, tell them ‘good morning’ and ‘have a good night’,” she says to her drivers, “Because some of them will speak, and some of them won’t,” she explained. Angie said most students will eventually become comfortable enough to speak over time. “Even if they don’t speak to you on the bus, if you see them in the store they’ll speak to you then,” she said with a smile. It’s a special kind of relationship that bus drivers and students build over the years. “A lot of them turn into being our own kids, it seems like. We treat them like that,” she said.